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Toner: Nothing is off the table concerning North

Mar 17,2017
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Mark Toner
Washington, D.C. - The Donald Trump administration is not taking “anything” off the table in dealing with North Korea, U.S. State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner told the JoongAng Ilbo when asked about a possible preemptive strike and forced regime change.

Speaking exclusively with the paper in Washington Tuesday, Toner stressed North Korea was a “real threat” to the U.S. and its allies, and that the White House was looking at taking “maximum defense measures” against the communist Kim Jong-un regime.

“When we say we don’t take anything off the table,” said Toner, “we mean that. When it affects our security interest and safety of our people, our citizens as well as our allies and partners, that matters.”

Toner’s remark came days before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was set to arrive in Seoul today, the second among a three-leg trip to Asia, which includes Tokyo and Beijing. The following is an edited and condensed version of the interview.



Q. Is your administration considering secondary sanctions?

A. We already have the hardest-hitting sanctions both unilaterally and through the UN. The difficulty or the effectiveness of sanctions relies on the implementation of those sanctions, and that’s certainly a conversation we’ve been having with - for example - China. We always reserve our right to take additional steps in regards to sanctions, but we don’t have anything to announce at this time.



Is dialogue with the Kim Jong-un regime possible for Trump?

If North Korea could be persuaded to talk about and address concerns about their nuclear program, we’d be willing to have those discussions. We’ve always said that. What we’ve always said was we don’t want to have talks for talks’ sake. We don’t want to just have talks so North Korea can continue to delay and continue to build up its nuclear program and to test ballistic missiles. That does no one any good except for possibly North Korea.



Can you confirm a recent article in The New York Times about the U.S. government carrying out cyberattacks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program? And will Washington continue this tactic?

I’m aware of that article, but I’m obviously not going to talk about anything that falls into the area of intelligence or of our intelligence actions. What we say about our cyber programs is that we retain the capability to act where needed.



Some people predict that South Korea’s decision to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system could be reversed if a liberal like Moon Jae-in gets elected in the upcoming presidential election. What’s your stance on the issue?

We’re obviously watching the political process that’s taking place in Korea. That’s really a domestic process. We look forward to working with whoever the Korean people elect next.

BY KIM HYUN-KI [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]